Debranding Digital Identity: Personal Branding and Identity Work in a Networked Age

Debranding Digital Identity: Personal Branding and Identity Work in a Networked Age

Corinne Weisgerber (Communication Department, St. Edward's University, Austin, TX, USA) and Shannan Heath Butler (St. Edward's University, Austin, TX, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICST.2016010102
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Abstract

This article explores the rhetoric of empowerment surrounding the recent phenomenon of personal branding and calls into question the idea that personal identities can and should be managed through corporate marketing processes in a Web 2.0 world. Starting with an examination of the historical basis of the personal branding movement and a critical analysis of the branding metaphor, the article then proceeds to show how the three stages of the conventional branding process on which most personal branding advice is based on, provide an inadequate framework for understanding the complex nature of identity work in a networked age.
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The Personal Branding Phenomenon

Brooks and Anumudu (2015) consider personal branding “the deployment of individual’s identity narratives for career and employment purposes” (p. 24). Vallas and Cummins (2015) similarly argue that the discourse of personal branding “invites employees to reconceive themselves as capitalist firms in their own right, establishing their own personal “brand” as a means of creating and managing demand for their own services” (p. 295). Schawbel (2007), a self-proclaimed millennial career and workplace expert, links the concept to a person’s online reputation and explains that it allows entrepreneurs to present “themselves as brands that communicate different values, personalities, and images to their audiences” (p. 62). It is important to note that in all of these definitions, personal branding is portrayed as a means of establishing a professional identity specifically designed to improve one’s employment prospects. Personal branding is thus understood as a response to a volatile labor market, high unemployment rates, and increased job competition (Brooks & Anumudu, 2015). In other words, the era of the personal brand is seen as having been ushered in by a series of detrimental external economic forces.

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